Firearms Management: Long-due system launched
The government has moved to bring arms sales and licencing procedures under an automation system to prevent illegal use of legal arms in the country.
The Special Branch of Police launched a software named Firearms Management System on March 22 to this end, through which authorities can verify the legality of a firearm online with a few clicks.
The SB designed the software following a home ministry directive in November 2018, which came after a deputy commissioner's (DC) call on the government to introduce an automation system at a DC-level conference the same year.
Police authorities used to keep the firearms licence and inspection records manually, said Abdus Salam, special superintendent of SB.
"But this software helps track every legal bullet and firearm. If, for example, someone tries to use an illegal firearm claiming it to be legal, then we can check it in a couple of minutes just by inputting its serial number. It will reduce the use of illegal firearms," he added.
Currently, people willing to carry a rifle or a shotgun have to apply manually to the DC, who sends the application to the SB for vetting. Upon positive reports from the SB, the DC then issues the licence.
Issuing of licences for pistols or revolvers, however, require the home ministry vetting after approval from the SB and DC.
"We have already held a meeting with legal arms dealers. We will soon train them on the user manual," said a top SB official, requesting anonymity.
In the past, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit found links between legal arms dealers and illegal arms smuggling syndicates. They also found that at least 200 illegal firearms were smuggled into the country in 2018-2019.
These arms dealers imported the firearms legally and then sold them on the black market and to criminals after removing the barcodes, officials said.
During the same period, the CTTC unit pressed charges against nine authorised arms dealers for selling arms illegally.
Now this system can keep track of the total legal imports and sales of firearms. It will keep record of every firearm and bullet imported or sold by a legal arms dealer, said officials.
As of December 2018, there were 54,000 legal arms holders in the country.
Under the law, legal firearms holders must inform the local police in case they change their location after buying firearms. Quiet often, they do not do so, making it difficult to track them manually, an SB official said.
"But now, the local police will be able to monitor it," the official added.
The software can also keep records of illegal arms recovery.
Nasir Ahmed, general secretary of Arms Dealers Association, said they heard about the system and that they were waiting for a briefing from the SB on this.
On October 12 last year, the SB requested the home ministry through the Police Headquarters to engage the offices of deputy commissioners with the system.
Once the DCs are involved, applications for firearms can be submitted online.
Asked about the request, Md Jahangir Alam, additional secretary (police) of the home ministry, said they were working on this.